Kortz in session — so is high school football

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Richards assistant football coachPAGE-1-COLOR-2-col Jeff Kortz tries to slow down running back Romeo Johnson with a towel during the first day of football practice on Monday in Oak Lawn.

  Once they hit the field, there may be no slowing down the Bulldogs in their quest to win a Class 6A state championship. Last year, the Bulldogs finished second and return some talented skill players including Johnson, who had seven carries for 97 yards in a 34-14 loss to Batavia in the state championship game in 2013.
  Jeff Vorva’s story looking at some of the early-season storylines for the 2014 campaign, which begins Friday, Aug. 29 and photos from Richards and Chicago Christian’s first-day practices can be found in sports. Photo by Jeff Vorva.

The so-called ‘meanest man in pro football’ dies

  • Written by Tim Hadac

Former Bear and Chicago Ridge bowling

alley owner Ed Sprinkle passes at age 90

Ed Sprinkle, a longtime resident of Palos Park and recently of Palos Heights who once owned a bowling alley in Chicago Ridge and widely acclaimed as one of the greatest football players in Chicago Bears history, died July 28. He was 90.
Mr. Sprinkle played as a right defensive end for the Bears from 1944 to 1955, earning the nickname “The Claw” for his ability to use his strong left arm against blockers and quarterbacks. He was named all-pro seven times and played in four Pro Bowls — in 1951, 1952, 1953 and 1955.
In a hardscrabble era of NFL football, he was known as a tough guy among tough guys, even getting tagged with a “meanest man in football” nickname by some—a designation Mr. Sprinkle and others close to him disputed.
“I don’t know where it started. I hit guys. I never stood around. Sometimes they interpreted that as being mean instead of being tough,” Mr. Sprinkle said in a 2012 interview with The Regional News. “Halas tried to defend me. He said I wasn’t a dirty player. I was mean as everyone out there.”
“His name is legendary. I’ve heard all the stories of the Monsters of the Midway, but I knew him as such a nice guy, such a gentleman. Hard to equate the legend with the man I know,” said Brian McCaskey, senior director of business development of the Chicago Bears and son of owner Virginia McCaskey, in 2012
In that same Regional News article, Mr. Sprinkle admitted to some run-ins with other players, including future Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula.
“I came around and hit him pretty good,” he said. “He said something, so I said, ‘If you want to stand around and watch the game why don’t you buy a ticket and sit in the stands?’”
Outside of football, he was a local businessman who owned a tile business on Southwest Highway, as well as a small bowling alley in Chicago Ridge on 111th Street and Oxford Avenue.
He was active in local affairs. He was a member of the Palos Lions Club and coached youth football and baseball, according to his daughter, Susan Withers, a banking executive and past president of the Palos Area Chamber of Commerce.
“My dad was tough on the field, because he had to be,” she recalled. “Everywhere else, he was kind and understanding. He wouldn’t just give orders, he would talk to you, explain things.”
“He was far more than a wonderful father,” Withers added. “He was a good friend. He was good with kids.”

She's history

  • Written by Bob Rakow


Her broken down car leads to curator’s love of Worth history

Colleen McElroy had never heard of Pag1-1-3-col-Coleen-for-Aug-14Colleen McElroy, shown at an outdoor board meeting earlier this summer in which board members dressed up in period pieces, has been synonymous with Worth history for years. Photo by Jeff Vorva.Worth until her car broke down in the Friendly Village 14 years ago.

“My ‘check engine’ light’ went,” recalls McElroy, who was returning home to Chicago from Orland Park, where she and her husband, Mike, had visited relatives.
McElroy and her young family lived on the Southwest Side of Chicago at the time, but less than a year after her car broke down, they bought a home in Worth.
The rest, as they say, is history.
“Things happen for a reason,” said McElroy, a member of the village board and the curator of the Worth Park District Historical Museum.
McElroy immediately got involved in her new community by joining the library board. She volunteered at the Worth Park District, where she oversaw programming. She moved to the museum when the curator position opened up five years ago.
McElroy, the mother of four, has a degree in history from Northern Illinois University and a passion for small town history, she said.
Overseeing the Worth Historical Museum fits the bill.
“I am very proud of where the museum is at today,” said McElroy, who spends about 22 hours week at the facility, which is located inside the Terrace Centre, 11500 S. Beloit Ave.

Hashing it over

  • Written by Bob Rakow


Area towns listen to medical marijuana pitches

A medical marijuana clinic may never open its doors in Chicago Ridge or Oak Lawn, but officials in both communities are hashing out their thoughts on the possibility.


One week after Chicago Ridge officials heard a presentation from an attorney whose investment group wants to locate a marijuana dispensary in the village, Oak Lawn village board members on Tuesday discussed the issue at a committee meeting.
“We need to get some sense of direction on where we’re going with this,” Mayor Sandra Bury said. “Just about every district has one little pocket that would qualify.”
The dispensaries will be heavily regulated by the state. For example, they cannot be located within 1,000 feet of a school or daycare center or located in a residential area. State law allows communities to enact reasonable zoning ordinances further regulating the location of dispensaries.
Chicago Ridge approved regulations that would prohibit a dispensary from locating within 1,000 feet of a park or a recreational facility.
Oak Lawn Village Attorney Pat Connelly said the village would be able to rely on its zoning regulations to restrict the location of dispensaries.
“There are numerous zoning tools at your disposal,” Connelly said.
Oak Lawn officials did not make any decisions regarding zoning, deciding instead to let the planning and development commission take up the decision at its Aug. 18 meeting.
Last week, Chicago Ridge officials heard a presentation from Steve Weisman, who heads an investment group interested in two potential locations in the village.
The locations—one on Southwest Highway, the other on Harlem Avenue—both meet state and village zoning restrictions. Weisman’s group must choose a location before submitting an application with the state, he said.
Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar pointed out that communities cannot prevent a dispensary from setting up shop, and trustees expressed few reservations about one locating in Chicago Ridge.
But Trustee Bruce Quintos on Tuesday said the village should not consider a dispensary without first gauging residents’ opinions on the proposal. He’s also is miffed that he was not informed of Weisman’s proposal before the board meeting.
Weisman told Chicago Ridge trustees that his group would not seek locations in towns “where we’re not wanted.”
Other communities in the area made it clear they were not interested in adding a medical marijuana dispensary to their business community, Weisman said.
Quintos, a former undercover narcotics officer, said he has other concerns about a dispensary clinic in the village including patients selling some their marijuana.
Oak Lawn Police Chief Mike Murray also expressed security concerns; especially because the dispensaries only accept cash and patients could be robbed.
“The amount they are allowing for sale is considerable,” Murray said.
“I think there’s going to be a problem with the clientele other than the sick people,” Oak Lawn Trustee Terry Vorderer said.
Weisman addressed some of the security concerns at last week’s meeting in Chicago Ridge.
He stressed that the clinics would be heavily regulated by the state, including implementation of a security plan and dispensing medical marijuana only to approved clients.
“The state’s requirements are incredibility rigorous,” he told trustees. “This is truly medicine. This is a business.”
The state’s medical cannabis act took effect on January 1. The law allows the used of marijuana by individuals who have a medical need and a permit. Qualifying patients must be diagnosed by a physician as having a debilitating medical condition. A qualifying patient can obtain up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana every two weeks.
Illinois is expected to begin taking applications for 60 medical marijuana businesses in September. Those who want to want to apply must have “an application pinned down,” said Weisman, an attorney for Kirkland and Ellis.
Weisman’s group plans to submit five applications. They decided to include Chicago Ridge as a potential location when they learned village officials were not opposed to the idea, he said.

Wow, it’s already been a year since taking over The Reporter

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Jeffs Col ImpressionsWhat was that? What just whizzed by?
Was that a year? Where did it go so quickly?
Yes, dear readers, it’s been a little more than a year since I became the alleged “new sheriff’’ in town and took over this fine newspaper as editor.
That year just flew by.
My hope was to take an already strong Page-3-2-col-with-JV-col-2It’s been a wild year since Jeff Vorva took over as Reporter editor including Bobby Hull coming to Oak Lawn (top photo, by Jeff Vorva) and Evergreen Park’s Henry Hynes playing on stage with Bruce Springsteen (bottom photo, submitted) in Nashville in April.Page-3-2-col-with-jv-colnewspaper and make it even more compelling and fun. We’re running bigger photos, bigger headlines and putting a picture of Fred Flintstone on the normally conservative and reserved opinion page shows we like to have fun.
We told fun stories of your friends and neighbors accomplishing fantastic things.
In the past 12 months, cancer survivors ran in triathlons, a kid sang on stage with Bruce Springsteen, a hockey player won a silver medal in the Olympics and a Hooters waitress compete in an international competition. We wrote about local comedians, the health of Cardinal George, a wheelchair basketball pioneer, a teenager who was praised by the governor and president for her volunteer business of making stuffed hearts to comfort people, heroic cops and firemen, a high school volleyball team that finished first in the state and a high school football team that finished second.
And that’s just the tip of the ice burg.
Also in the past dozen months, we have been keeping our readers up to date on the 100th anniversaries of Chicago Ridge and Worth. We’ve followed stories about basketball courts in Oak Lawn, the ups and downs of the merged baseball and softball leagues in Palos Hills and Hickory Hills and some of the business developments and the great high school football season in Evergreen Park.
We wrote about the weather.
It was cold.
And we wrote about a couple of storms that passed the area that could have been a lot worse. We even wrote a story about an advertisement from a man’s mail in downstate Washington that reached Moraine Valley in Palos Hills during a tornado. We wrote about school closings – no, not because of the weather. We wrote about the permanent closing of Mt. Assisi High School in Lemont and St. Bernadette in Evergreen Park.
Celebrities came to town.
Governor hopeful Bruce Rauner campaigned in Hickory Hills. Olympic hero Bonnie Blair was at Stagg to speak in the winter and the Gin Blossoms played music there in the spring. Bobby Hull and Mike Ditka gave some flavor to a couple of area liquor store events. Former Cub David DeJesus and current Cubs players Edwin Jackson and Chris Coghlan stopped by Advocate Children’s Hospital to brighten kids’ days. And Dick Biondi, a legendary DJ who is all of 83 years old, climbed a 60-foot fire department ladder during an event at Standard Bank Park in Crestwood.
Yes, there were also the controversial stories as well as the sad stories that we hate to write but as long as we had to, we were going to do them as thoroughly as we could even if it meant ticking some people off. That’s a part of the job that won’t go away.
We made some friends. We made some enemies. We hope we made more friends than enemies.
The inner circle of the Reporter is small. Joining me is reporter Bob Rakow and designer Kari Nelson. They are the heart and soul of the newspaper. We have some outstanding freelance writers helping the cause and this summer we were blessed with some young, talented interns who also graced the paper with their work.